Lemons & Meyer Lemons

I was recently asked to describe a Meyer Lemon.  In the process of attempting to describe it I realised that describing flavours is actually quite difficult, and yet here I am about to have another go.

For anyone not familiar with Meyer Lemons, the first thing you need to know is that, technically, they are not lemons.  Native to China, Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a lemon and another citrus – most likely an orange or mandarin.  As you can see in the picture below (the Meyer lemons are on the left) they are a brighter yellowy orange colour with thinner skin than a ‘normal’ lemon.  This thin skin is what I presume prevents them from widespread commercial growing.   The only place I have ever seen the fruits for sale are farmers markets.  I would be interested to know if anyone has seen them anywhere else.

I find that the fruit tend to be smaller than either Eureka or Lisbon lemons (the most commonly grown lemon varieties in Australia), although they often give just as much juice as they have a lot less pith.  The trees are generally smaller than either of those lemon varieties – growing to about 2m.  You can also buy them on dwarf rootstock as mine is.

In terms of flavour; to my palate they taste like a more fruity, less sour lemon which I guess is kind of what you’d expect given their parents.  They are certainly more lemony than mandariny or orangey though, which I guess partially explains the inability of sources to agree on their antecedents.

Although they can be substituted for lemons in most dishes I do find that where you want the lemon to provide a really acidic note you are better off using a traditional lemon.  I love using them in salad dressing, sweet dishes and a chicken, lemon & sage dish I cook quite regularly.

In terms of cultivation they seem to have much the same requirements as other citrus – well drained soil, a reasonable amount of water, sun and some protection from extreme cold, all of which a typical Melbourne (or anywhere temperate) garden can easily provide (periods of drought notwithstanding).   They seem to be just as attractive to citrus gall wasps as my other citrus trees (if not more so) which is very irritating.  They also seem particularly attractive to leaf miners.

The lemons in the picture are from my parents trees.  Whilst both my lemon and Meyer lemon bore lemons this year they certainly don’t produce large amounts of lemons regularly….well not yet at least – they are only a couple of years old after all.

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35 Responses to Lemons & Meyer Lemons

  1. Daphne says:

    I’ve seen them here in the US for sale at Whole Foods. Not often, but on rare occasion. I’ve never seen them anywhere else around here. We can’t grow them in our climate so any that come, have to be shipped in.

    • Liz says:

      I guess I take the ability to grow citrus very much for granted – I reckon about 30% – 50% of Melbourne gardens would have some form of citrus tree (usually a lemon) in them.

  2. I just did a post on my meyer lemons too so was very interested to read yours. Mine will have to stay potted and be brought in the greenhouse or inside this winter.

    • Liz says:

      Glad you look like getting some lemons and i know what you mean about them being slow to develop – all citrus seem to take ages to develop…..actually thats probably true of many fruits.

  3. Michelle says:

    Meyers grow like weeds in most parts of California and it seems that there is at least one tree in every garden, including mine! One thing that most people don’t know is that the skin, including the white pith, is very flavorful and not at all bitter. The rats know this, they will strip the lemons down to the juicy core and leave the naked lemons hanging from the branches. I’ve found that the trees will tolerate quite a bit of shade, my tree is on the north side of my house and gets sun about half the day most of the year and almost none in the winter, but the tree is growing like crazy and produces more lemons than I can use.

    • Liz says:

      That is interesting about the shade. Rats do the same to my parents grapefruits. I do use the zest in quite a few things but I do find them more difficult to zest than standard lemons.

  4. Jody says:

    They sound yummy. I’m surprised. We spent 3 years in Southern California and never saw or heard of them. Too bad we can’t grow them here. They seem very enjoyable.

  5. I did consider a small lemon, orange or kumquat tree for our summerhouse but decided it could be too cold even in there in winter.

    I’ve never come across a meyer lemon though – it sounds good.

    • Liz says:

      I don’t know it might do OK – my parents have a lot of citrus and there place gets pretty cold in winter, certainly below freezing at times. Whilst it would be too cold outside in the UK you might get away with it in a summerhouse….hmmm perhaps in the south of britain though – move to cornwall perhaps…..

  6. Mark Willis says:

    I’m glad you clarified this. I had been under the impression that Meyer lemons were just like any other lemon.

    • Liz says:

      They are really common here – in people’s gardens etc but I don’t think I ever saw one in the UK I have to say.

  7. Dave says:

    I think you did a great job of describing the flavor. I got some here this spring at Sam’s Club. They made some great lemon curd!

    • Liz says:

      They do don’t they – I really like them in curd, tarts and pies – in fact any sweet dish at all where you’d you lemon – yum!

  8. I love Meyer lemons more than regular one, they have more flavor, I think, and are more versatile in the kitchen. The only down side is they are not available year round.

  9. Louise says:

    My brother who is sensitive to overly acidic things, really loves Meyes. They are really the only lemons he can tolerate. They are a pretty colour too.

  10. Balvinder says:

    OK, So now I know the difference, I have seen bloggers talk about Meyer lemon a lot.

    The lemons that we get in India are close to Meyer lemons. They are sold just as any other lemon, have thin skin and more flavor as you described but not fruity. What surprises me is that I have not seen Meyer lemons in my farmer’s market.

    • Liz says:

      That is surprising – they are unique and interesting. Now I’m trying to remember the lemons in India…..

  11. Jo says:

    I’ve never heard of Meyer lemons. I’ve often looked at other citrus plants but they seem too much bother to grow over here.

  12. Sarah says:

    Our friends in California grow Meyer lemons – my own tree is in a pot (North Yorkshire isn’t really lemon country), but I’m hoping that some day I’ll be able to pick some fruit from it.

  13. Rebecca says:

    I never knew that Meyer lemons and lemons were two different things. I have a Meyer lemon that I drag inside each winter. This year I even hand pollinated it and was rewarded with quite a few fruits. Now they just need to ripen up.

  14. I’ve been looking around and it is possible to purchase a Meyer lemon in the UK. May be tricky growing them though by some accounts…one problem being they need 8-12 hours of daylight in the Winter…I am tempted though after hearing all about them…

    • Liz says:

      I didn’t know about the daylight but it does make sense and also explain why mum & dad can grow them (their winters are quite chilly) but they still might not be suitable for the UK. By the same token you’ll never know unless you try…..

  15. vag says:

    i just read your post because I have a google alert for naked lemons(my band) :)

    • Liz says:

      Love the connection, what I want to know is – did you name your band after lemons that rats have eaten the skin off? I have since found you on My space, and enjoyed what I heard. Thanks for letting me know – most entertaining!

  16. vag says:

    rats…yeah, this could also be the story behind the name of the band.. but it came from human parralelism with lemons. Lemons are sour, so are the people. All lemons from the outside are different. Different shapes, colors and are people but if you see inside a human if you take off his clothes and accessories (naked), you see that there are no differences. So for me, a naked lemon, means equality among all people.

    • Liz says:

      I sensed the rat explanation was perhaps a little too ‘punk’ – I do like the real version better.

  17. Elle says:

    Found your description very helpful. I was recently given lemons from a couple of different sources, both different varieties too. The larger batch was a very golden colour, so much so, that I wasn’t sure if they were lemons or oranges, even when I cut into them, had quite a sweet smell. Shaped like lemons though. They did taste like lemons, though as you mentioned, not as tart/acidic. Now I know what they are, I’m happy. :)

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